Solutions to the problems of crime, privatizing the Transport Board, and the meaning of the letters ‘RH’ in an anti-littering message on a Christ Church bus shelter, were among issues that generated much discussion among Barbados TODAY readers and on the island as a whole during this week.
Attorney General and Minister of Home Affairs, Adriel Brathwaite, served notice that it could soon be an offence punishable under the laws of Barbados for persons to be associated with criminal gangs.
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a National Consultation on Crime and Violence, Brathwaite said Government was preparing to take to Parliament in the coming weeks anti-gang legislation, which will give the judiciary the power to sentence gang leaders and members to lengthy jail terms of 20 years or more.
“These persons corrupt many of our young men and women and, from what you are being told, send them into the society to commit some very serious crimes. They are not heroes. They belong behind bars and that is why we want to give specific legislation to deal with them,” said the Attorney General, who has been under pressure to take action to stem a recent worrying crime wave.
His comments received a mixed reaction from some of our online readers.
One said “the gangs are far better armed and stronger now than 9 years ago when all we heard every 5 minutes was crime and violence. The amount of high powered guns and bullet proof vests are proof of their “upgrading”. But just like the roads, sanitation problems …, this government waits till the horse bolt the stable long time to come running to shut it.”
Another reader thanked the minister for proposing the legislation but was concerned that legislation alone was not enough to fix the crime problem. The reader observed: “They (offenders) are the children of our society – born into our homes. It is fascinating how Barbadians blame politicians for the problems they create. Barbadians would support their children’s criminal activities when they are young.
“When the children become uncontrolled, harden criminals, they then chastise the politician for not doing anything to curb the rising crime situation. How often do we see police officers being verbally abused by adults in the line of their duty when visiting some of our noted hot spots for crime?”
Meanwhile, a local criminal justice expert warned that Barbados could not allow its crime situation to reach the stage of that in Jamaica, as she pointed out that based on the results of a recent gang study, a ‘Don’ culture was already emerging here.
“One community was identified in our study as having been neglected for years [with] no agencies, failed programmes . . . [and] years and years [of neglect] by successive governments,” reported Kim Ramsay, the senior research officer in the Criminal Justice Research and Planning Unit (CJRPU).
One reader expressed the opinion that the crime situation was due to the high employment. “A lot of the younger generation see selling drugs as a way to make fast money and a lot of money, if they are unable to find work. The problem is not exclusive to the younger generation but a lot of older people with responsibilities also see the same solution,” the reader said.
“Until Government starts to address ways to bring decent paying jobs to the country, then the problem will continue. Once decent paying jobs are available, then they need to work simultaneously to reduce the high cost of living so that those salaries are reflective to proper living.”
This week, Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) candidate, Ryan Straughn, raised the contentious issue of privatization, while suggesting that the state-run Transport Board should be sold.
“Today there are more than 100,000 private vehicles in Barbados and such accessibility is no longer an issue as it was in 1976,” the former Central Bank economist said, while emphasizing the need for divestment of the loss-making national bus service. “I ask Barbados when will we recognize that the Government of Barbados does not have to own a bus to deliver subsidized fares for any of its citizens.”
Straughn, delivering the 2017 Tom Adams Memorial Lecture, suggested that in a 21st century Barbados, Government’s role should be that of a strong regulator and not owner of public transportation.
One angry commenter chastised the opposition candidate. “Stupid statement! You cannot privatize the Transport Board. What is needed is better management in terms of bus fares and transparency. The Barbados Transport Board has to be the cheapest poorest run mode of public transportation in the world!”
However, one person was not opposed to the idea of selling the Transport Board. “After so long of poor service and multiple governments, I’m sorry folks, it got to go. Private sector will do a better job, and government can regulate it. Yes, it may be $3; however the bus will come, production would increase and your ride would possibly be more enjoyable.”
The top trending story of the week undoubtedly was a bright yellow bus shelter on Maxwell Main Road bearing the slogan Stop RH Littering that caused quite a stir on social media. Members of the public have been speculating on the meaning of the letters RH, with some assuming it is an acronym for a well-known Bajan expletive.
It was eventually explained that the RH actually stands for Road and Highway.